Your Sources: Another Final Analogy

When it comes to the question of what kinds of sources are appropriate you should always consult with your professors: is the Web okay? What about Wikipedia? Do you need to have at least one print source? Don't just guess—ask.

You will probably find that some professors are okay with you using Google, Wikipedia, or other general Web search tools, though the information you find still has to be credible. Other professors, though, will ask that you not use information from the Web. Why is this? It goes back to what the research requirement is assessing: your ability to engage in a process, not just to use whatever Google provides to you first in its search results list.

So here's a final analogy: imagine you have just had a great lunch of spicy Italian lasagna, extra garlicky garlic bread, coffee—the works. But now you have to head to an important job interview. You will be talking in close quarters with somebody you are really trying to impress. So what you need is some gum. You really need some gum. And good news! It just so happens that stuck to the sidewalk right outside the restaurant is a piece of gum. Great! That was easy. All you need to do is peel it off the cement and you are good to go . . .

Of course, nobody would ever do this. We wouldn't chew old gum just because it is immediately available, despite the fact that we really need some gum. Think of research in the same way. You could just go to Google, start typing, and let it predictively guess at what terms you are interested in. Then, in a second, it delivers up a million search results. This is exactly what you needed: research.

But just as we would never chew that gum off the pavement, no matter how much we needed it, we should not automatically default to using research tools just because they seem quick and easy. So before we get to that job interview, we take the time to stop at a store and buy gum.

When it comes to research, take your time at the start. Use search tools that might not be as immediately accessible as Google but that will provide much more "palatable" results.